I’m helping a friend look for a new puppy. One of the breeds that made it to her short list was the Papillon. With a little more research, it wasn’t long before the cute little Papillon got crossed off.
What is The Code, you ask?
It’s the positive spin breeders put on their breed descriptions, endorsed by the AKC. And, I believe, it’s a major contributor as to why so many dogs wind up in shelters and rescue situations.
And because I, for one, am sick and tired of people being encouraged to make bad choices in selecting dogs because of misleading information, I’m gonna help you crack The Code.
So let’s get crackin’.
Breed Description Code
In all but the most experienced dog person’s hands, if you read that a dog is:
- Good with children if raised with them = NOT good with children.
- Gets long with older children = NOT good with children.
- With socialization and training, can be quite good with children = NOT good with children.
- Should be supervised with children and other animals = NOT good with children and other animls.
- May not be good with small animals = will eat your cat or small dog if left alone with it.
- Does poorly with other animals = will eat your cat and small or big dog if left alone with it.
- Energetic = walking pogo sticks not suitable for small quarters such as the Biltmore.
- Exuberant = walking pogo sticks not suitable for small quarters such as the Biltmore.
- Lively and curious = hyperactive.
- Enthusiastic = hyperactive.
- Active = hyperactive.
- Busy = hyperactive.
- Very active full of nervous energy = hyperactive and neurotic.
- Rambunctious = body slamming fun.
- Confident = aggressive tendencies.
- Alert attitude = hypervigilant-can’t relax, aggressive tendencies and/or barker.
- Territorial = aggressive tendencies often with other animals.
- Dominant = aggressive tendencies.
- Bold = aggressive tendencies.
- Wary = aggressive tendencies.
- Protective = aggressive tendencies
- Intense = possibly dominant and/or aggressive tendencies.
- Aloof = usually one-person dogs not good with strangers — or friends — or maybe even other family members. and possibly aggressive.
- Reserved = shy and/or usually one-person dogs not good with strangers — or friends — or maybe even other family members. And possibly aggressive.
- Prefers the company of humans to dogs = may be dog aggressive.
- Strong prey drive = likes to chase any moving object and is likely to be animal aggressive, particularly with smaller animals.
- Likes to herd = likes to chase any moving object, especially younger children, and may nip (read bite) to get its point across.
- Independent minded = hard to train and/or willful.
- Highly trainable when motivated = hard to train and/or willful.
- Obstinate = hard to train and/or willful.
- Gets bored easily = hard to train and/or willful.
- Tenacious = willful.
- Intelligent = easy to train, but if not trained will take over.
- Strong work drive = easy to train, but if not trained will take over.
- Needs frequent grooming = sheds enough hair daily to make its own doppelganger.
- Courgeous = chooses fight over flight.
- Good watchdog = barker and/or biter.
- Noisy = non-stop barker.
- Tends to vocalize = non-stop barker.
- Communicative = non-stop barker.
- Will alert to strangers = non-stop barker.
- Likes to dig = kiss your gardens and manicured yard goodbye.
- Likes to run = if you don’t have a fence worthy of a high-security prison, don’t plan on seeing your dog for weeks at time.
- Tendency to roam = if you don’t have a fence worthy of a high-security prison, don’t plan on seeing your dog for weeks at time.
- Mischievous = don’t leave this dog alone and expect to come home and find your possessions in one piece.
- Gets bored easily = don’t leave this dog alone and expect to come home and find your possessions in one piece.
I could go on and on, but hopefully you’re beginning to see how to read between the lines for yourself.
Breeders are in the Business of Selling Dogs–So Do Your Own Homework
There are a couple of things to remember when you’re looking for a dog. While there are some truly wonderful breeders out there who will make it their business to give you the straight scoop on their breed — and you should do everything you can to find one of these breeders — don’t forget that breeders are in the business of selling their dogs. And many breeders will assume you’ve done your homework.
In fact, it is up to you to make sure you have done the requisite research. Start by asking the right questions–vets and positive dog trainers are fountains of helpful information.
Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover
While many people get drawn to a particular breed by its looks, most assuredly with dogs, looks can be and often are deceiving. For instance, many people assume that small dogs are friendly and easy-going. Some are, but just as many aren’t.
While many people think of Dobermans, Rottweilers and Pit Bulls as aggressive, in a study of 33 dog breeds published this year in the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior Science, it was found that you’re more likely to be bitten by a Dachshund, Chihuahua or Jack Russell Terrier. They got that way by bad breeding, and not enough training and socializing.
On the other hand, some of the Dobermans, Rottweilers, and Pit Bulls I know are the most wonderful and trust-worthy dogs you’d ever want to meet. They got that way by good breeding, but also by good training and good socializing.
Bottom line: There are two people responsible for the experience you will have with your dog — you, and the breeder. Good dogs start with good breeding, and they stay that way with good training and plenty of socializing. This can not be said often enough, so let me repeat myself.
Good dogs start with good breeding, and they stay that way with good training and plenty of socializing.
So if you want a wonderful companion, do your breed research: talk to breeders, trainers, vets, and other owners of the breed you’re considering. and then train, train, train, socialize, socialize, socialize, socialize, socialize, and socialize. And you will have the dog of your dreams.
Oh. Why did my friend cross the Papillon off her list? She wanted a dog that wasn’t a barker, wasn’t aggressive, and wasn’t so fragile that a bump from one of our other dogs could possibly break a bone. Here’s the Papillon’s description: 7-10 pounds (fragile) alert (barker), big dog personality in small package (possibly aggressive). Need I say more?
Good Books to Help You Choose
If you’re in the market for dog, I highly recommend any of these books. They do a great job at giving a balanced view — in English, not in Code — of various breeds. Click on any book for more information.
And one last point to consider that Suzie, a reader, left as a comment and to which I heartily agree:
“Please consider adopting a shelter dog as an alternative to purebred. There are so many dogs dropped off at shelters for the very reasons you mentioned and it’s shame that the majority of them have to be killed, that’s what happens to them..”put down” sounds so much nicer but killing is what it is. You might even find a purebred at the shelter or check with local rescue groups. Sorry about getting up on my soapbox..I’ve had many dogs over my 69 years, purebreds at first and now I have two shelter dogs. A male Malamute and female Shepherd mix. It’s a wonderful feeling to look into their eyes and know that I saved them…in return I get so much love..”